Trihorus actively persues personal growth and shares what he uncovers on the way.
You finally convince yourself to study. You get to your desk, get a bunch of books out and roll your sleeves up. You plan on having an unbelievable session with learning and getting through as much material as you possibly could. Just as you begin, however, a dark force starts eating your drive to continue, gradually slowing and even shutting your system down. You begin to feel drowsy.
Don't worry, it happens to everyone. In this article, I'll share some techniques which I have found to work and which have improved my interest, learning and grasping of the topic I was trying to study.
1. Let Curiosity Lead
When you just go and open some book with the intention of studying, you don't do so because you want to learn something. You do so, more because you have to. It's more like you force yourself to sit and learn. Given our distraction-ridden world, there's always something better and interesting than mugging up some answers or going through long blocks of texts and consequently, studies seem excruciatingly boring, crashing our stimulation-craving brain with drowsiness.
So, How Exactly Do You Fix That?
Don't study just because you have a test to pass or because you think you should. Study because you want to learn something you don't know. When your approach changes from passing a test to acquiring knowledge or learning something you didn't know, then you automatically transition from getting bored to being excited to study. So, before you start a topic, spend some time to think about it. What all do you know about the topic? Thinking about the topic makes you realise how much you know about it, and thus makes you feel you should learn more to widen your understanding.
What that will do is generate curiosity about your topic. When you will open your book, you'd then want to quench your thirst for knowledge or find answers to your questions.
Doing this little exercise before beginning a topic will enhance your focus and even absorption of the knowledge, helping you retain it for longer periods than usual—because, when we learn something out of curiosity, we send it to the department of long-term memories, instead of throwing it over a pile of ready-to-discard memories, when we're forcefully trying to understand or memorise something.
2. Have an Exclusive Place and Time
You know it's about to be lunchtime when your stomach turns to speaker mode and begins rambling something in its own language. How does it know that? When you consistently eat at the same time, the brain learns and assigns that time as 'meal time' and at that time, it signals the stomach to begin rambling and to prepare to greet some delicious food. Similarly, when you begin studying regularly at the same time, your brain learns and assigns that time as 'study time' and it will then automatically get you into the studious mood and activate parts of your brain to enable you to absorb all the new information, seamlessly.
What about the place? Unfortunately, the same is true for the place too, implying that if you have a habit of studying in your bed or couch, you'll likely catch yourself dreaming a while later, because your brain associates the couch or your bed with relaxation and sleep.
The bottom line? Have a fixed place to study so that whenever you come back the next day at the same time, your brain will already have prepared you to give your best and your study desk will also strongly attract you towards it, to uncover and understand more about the world around you. You're such an explorer!
3. Study in Slots
I understand that studying for five minutes isn't enough. You need to study more and that varies—from five to ten minutes if there's nothing to pulling an all-nighter a day before the exam. So, maybe you storm into your room and get to your study desk with adrenaline pumping through your blood vessels—you declare that you'll study for a monstrous amount of hours in one sitting. How does it go? You know it.
Even if you want to stack a lot of study time, don't do it continuously in one sitting. When you do that, you gradually burn yourself out mentally and end up forcing yourself to study, struggling to find the last droplet of motivation or sometimes finding yourself inquisitive about those little things you never noticed—the spider spinning his web quietly surely becomes a lot more interesting at that time.
So, How Do You Fix That?
Break your study time into little slots, separated by a rewarding break. Have short but intense slots, followed by a not too long albeit a refreshing break. When you're in one of your study session, all that should matter to you at that time is whatever material you are studying and hence, you should cut out all distractions. Have a bottle of water nearby and go to the bathroom before you're about to start your session but when you're in one, unless there's a threat to your life, don't budge.
Since your study slots are short, it changes from, "I have to study for 4 hours," to "I have to study for half an hour." As you can see, it is easier to give your all when you know you just have to study for thirty minutes and a break also follows it. As a result, you study with all your interest and focus, improving your concentration and input, affecting your learning constructively.
Things to Be Careful About
- Make sure your study slots aren't too short. Anything from 30 minutes to 45 minutes is great.
- Make sure your breaks aren't too long in between your slots. Your breaks are meant to refresh you, not to distract you away or get you out of the mood.
- Have your breaks proportionately. For example: If your study slot lasts 30 minutes, a two-minute break will be good whereas, if your slot lasts 45 minutes, a five-minute break would be perfect.
- In your breaks, don't introduce yourself to any distractions but loosen up. Drink water or use the bathroom, have a little walk around or stretch yourself. Give your brain some downtime, give it some time to recharge.
4. Make Studying a Habit
Now that you know how to spike your interest, how to get into the zone and how to sit for long hours, there's just one last thing left—to be able to follow it consistently. The secret to success lies in habits, that's how important they are. Constructive habits build you up whereas destructive ones pull you apart. Whenever a particular action turns into a habit, you no longer have to consciously put in as many efforts as you initially would have to. Habits are like the body's own way of automizing things.
Quite to say, if studying becomes your habit, then you'd actually find it difficult not to study on a particular day.
How Do You Do It?
As it is popularly said that anything followed for a minimum of 21 days becomes a habit, I'll ask you to take a 30-day challenge: To commit to sticking to your study slots at your decided place and time. You don't have to think about doing it for 30 days, just focus on following it for that day, then the next and the next. At the end of 30 days, I'm sure you'd like to keep your streak going.
I'd also recommend getting this book called The Power of Habits: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author, Charles Duhigg. The book has everything about how habits are formed to how you can change or get rid of your existing habits. The book is based on countless studies and has numerous stories detailing various aspects of habits. That book is my personal favourite, and has really impacted my life in a positive way—I'm even reading it again, just to absorb more insights. Getting that book was an excellent decision which has benefitted me in all walks of my life. I'd really want you to check it out.
To Summarize it all
1. Let curiosity lead
Don't study to pass, study to learn.
2. Have an exclusive place and time
Help your brain to get into the zone.
3. Study in slots
Work hard but along with smart work.
4. Make it a habit
Follow it consistently to make it effortless.
Now you know how to improve your study experience. The next step? Get started! These four tips explained above don't just apply to your studies, they apply to any learning. Anything you pursue with curiosity and interest with full-fledged support from your brain with some other hacks to increase your efficiency in the process will take you far with that thing. Just the bottom line: Never stop learning.
© 2018 Trihorus
Trihorus (author) from The Multiverse on August 01, 2018:
Haha, I get you. I was so annoyed by this getting drowsy while studying. I used to start by sitting straight but gradually, I used to end up lying down, eventually wrapping up my study time. Only recently have I had this change in perception and began enjoying my studies. It's actually better that you don't feel sleepy while studying but really do try those things, you'll feel the change. Best of luck and never stop learning!